Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Making Monsters #22: Zombie

The films of Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci aren't as stylish or darkly beautiful as those of his contemporaries Mario Bava and Dario Argento, and those qualities never seemed to interest the director much. Fulci was primarily interested in gore, and his filmography is essentially an ongoing study of all the horrible things that can be done to the human body, depicted in graphic detail and without ever cutting away in order to be as revolting as possible. While pure gross-out doesn't usually do it for me, I can't help but admire Fulci's sense of showmanship, his technical skill and his, um, consistency of vision in films like Don't Torture a Duckling, The Beyond and City of the Living Dead.

Zombie is perhaps the quintessential Fulci movie. Released in 1979 and marketed in Europe as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead, the film has none of Dawn's satire or use of zombies as a way of examining bigger ideas. It's clear that Fulci is primarily interested in using zombies as a way of examining maggot-infested eyesockets, horrible flesh wounds and, in one mind-blowingly awesome scene, a zombie fighting a shark. Fulci's gift for realistic gore resulted in Zombie being banned in Great Britain; classified in the 1980s as a "video nasty," it wasn't released uncut in England until 2005. The film's most sickening moment occurs when a zombie attacks Paola (Olga Karlatos) and forces her head against a large splinter in a broken doorframe, puncturing her eyeball in a sickening close-up. To create the effect, makeup artist Gianetto De Rossi created a dummy head and slowly pushed it into the splinter, making sure to fill the eye with realistically squishy fluids. The impossible-to-forget scene doesn't really signify much about horror as a genre in a larger sense. But man, it sure is disgusting.

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